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Valley Ramen Spot Has Soul Of Japan With Gaijin Flair

(Photo by Naomi Gingold - KJZZ)
Sign on the wall at Hot Noodles Cold Sake in Scottsdale.

There’s a new ramen shop in the Valley that opened up about 3 months ago. The chef used to live in Japan, but he’s actually gaijin, a foreigner, or, at least, a foreigner to Japan.

When he was 11, Joshua Hebert, like a lot of 11 year olds, decided he wanted to impress girls. Some kids might choose to do that with sports, others theater, Hebert chose food. In his 20s, after a stint in San Francisco, the Valley native ended up as a chef at a posh hotel in Tokyo. He was only there a few days before he found himself at a ramen restaurant.

He says he walked in, "Looked at what someone was eating next to me, and pointed and said i'll take that one. Y'know, Someone brought me this giant steaming bowl of amazingness, and a love affair was born."

Hebert practically ate his way through what he calls one the coolest cities on the planet. Later, he returned to the Valley and opened the upscale improvisational dining spot Posh. About 6 years ago, he started doing pop-up ramen nights there.

Ramen night got so popular that Hebert decided to open a separate restaurant.

Hot Noodles Cold Sake sits in an unsuspecting shopping center in northern Scottsdale. And in less than three months, the place has gotten really busy. But Hebert’s is far from the first ramen place in the Valley.  In fact, Ramen has been having its moment in the sun in the U.S., even if some call it a fad.

"You wonder how sushi became popular, how we got Americans to eat raw fish before we got them to eat a giant bowl of noodle soup. So when people talk about, 'is ramen a trend?' I say no. It’s something that’s way behind it’s time. People are finally coming to realize that there are other things in Japanese food besides just raw fish that are amazing," he said.

Like also okonomiyaki, even Hebert's mom's favorite. It's sometimes referred to as a Japanese savory pancake or pizza, and it’s another dish that Hebert was making at his pop-up ramen nights.

Right now, at Hot Noodles Cold Sake, it is not on the menu. The kitchen is much smaller, so they are focusing on the ramen. But there are gyoza — dumplings — sake, plus, the same ramen recipe that was so popular at posh. 

The restaurant has had hiccups. Some online reviewers have written that the small pork slice on top of the ramen has been served cold. 

Hebert says they’re aware of the issue. And it has to do with health-board temperature rules, plus space restrictions — and they’re working on a solution. 

Right now, he's figuring out some kinks, but he also says they’re aggressively looking into opening more ramen shops around the Valley.

And even maybe an okonomiyaki one eventually.

You'll often find Hebert bouncing between both Posh and the ramen shop, especially around the ramen shop at lunchtime, where, emblazoned on the wall, it says (in Japanese):  "The noodle is the heartbeat. The soup is the soul."

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Naomi Gingold is the weekend morning host at KJZZ. When’s she’s not in the studio, she’s out reporting stories in the Valley.